Consumer-oriented real estate websites such as Zillow and Redfin and Google’s Street View function are ubiquitous features of the home-buying process in the Boston area — well, pretty much any area. They’re often where people start their home search, and their popularity has likely only grown during the pandemic as more people browse listings virtually before risking a physical visit amid COVID-19.
But what if you’re not keen on this public disclosure? There are ways to erase your real estate on consumer sites and on Google. But these can be time-consuming, and they often result in incomplete victories.
The first thing to know about removing information from sites that list details, including price and sale history and photos, is that the direct approach is best. Set up an account with the sites themselves to start. This registration is free and takes a few minutes at most. Then, depending on the site, remove the photos and the details yourself.
At Zillow, that means clicking on the “claim this home’’ button and proving that you’re the homeowner. This verification process can take days. Once verified, you can go to “correct home facts’’ and start editing. At Trulia, which Zillow owns, it’s a matter of contacting customer support. That route might be best for both, though, if you want a lot of information scrubbed. (Zillow did not return a request for comment.)
At Redfin, the site allows users to set up an “owner dashboard.’’ From there, a user can edit — and edit out — information. “All of this can also be accomplished by contacting Redfin customer support, either by phone, live chat, or with a support ticket,’’ a Redfin spokeswoman said via e-mail.
In the end, though, even contacting the sites directly may not lead to the removal of most information and certainly not all. Zillow, for one, regards its sites as resources “to empower consumers with information and tools,’’ and another site, Estately, says on its website that it will not remove information “unless it is incorrect.’’ (Estately did not return a request for comment.)
So it is likely that your home will never fully disappear, but removing information — and photos — from these sites means that it will not show up in searches unless a user types in your full address. If you’ve scrubbed information as well as photos, then what they’ll find will be pretty paltry anyway.
As for almighty Google, its Street View takes requests. A spokesman described “cutting-edge face- and license plate-blurring technology’’ that also applies to property exteriors. Like with the consumer sites, it starts with verification that can take days. It ends in blurring so properties are indiscernible.
Start with the “report a problem’’ button at the bottom right of most Street View shots. That will take users to a survey to check off and detail what information or action they want Google to take, including which areas they want blurred. The request also sets off the verification.
One thing Google makes clear upfront, though, is that once it blurs a detail on Street View, it’s permanently blurred — which may be the whole point anyway.
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